Tag Archives: World War II

Commando Comics No. 21: The relation of Heroism and Villainy to the Damsel in Distress

© Vincent Maher 2017, Ryerson University

Introduction

In Commando Comics No.21 ‘Doc Stearne’, written by Fred Kelly (44-50), its story introduces somes stakes that revolves around a select group of characters coming into conflicts with the antagonists, the Imperial Japanese Army, located in Northern Canada. The selected story arc of show how representations assigns the role of both the protagonists and antagonists. What then emerges are the constructions of what those representations show with regards to each character, which is why I would like to delve into how women are shown enhances the construction of heroism. The focus on seeing what is provided within the comic arc would be to take a look at the interactions of the characters in the comic, and take a look as to how they are positioned and drawn. The first step in delving into the representations featured in the story, ‘Doc Stearne’, there are representations that are solely focused on specific groups that limit itself with the division of how gender assigns the roles of the all the characters that exist within this respective story. Three major ones that can be identified within the story are the heroes, villains, and the captive damsel in distress. Each of these three play a role in the story that allows the plot to advance from beginning to end, since each side would continue to act upon their own goals in order for that story’s completion to be certain. Within the content provided in the slides of the comic’s pages, the characters all play their respective roles given by the artists for themes to emerge. Showcasing the Japanese in the comic depiction of a World War II scenario, alongside main protagonists delves into the notion of the comic leaning towards how the theme of heroism is enhanced. That focus on heroism seems to have been centered on the main protagonists in the story, the explorers, with respects to their own goals. “World War II had drastically changed the position of race in comics and, by implication, in America’s popular imagination.” (Lenthall 18.)

The story

For the summarization of the storyline that takes place within ‘Doc Stearne’, it begins and it sets the stage with the introduction of the protagonists and the antagonists. The antagonists, the Japanese, show themselves to set themselves against the main protagonists, by capturing one of the protagonists’ friends. The explorers are now setting themselves in their own goals by chasing after the Japanese that have taken their friend, Gloria. So as that short story begins to move and events continue to unfold, it’s a direct march for the explorers for them to infiltrate the Japanese hideout to save Gloria. To note, Gloria is the only existing female character that exists within the comic, but both the explorers and the Japanese are shown to have only consisted of male characters. There are further questions that are to be taken into account, to ask possibly on how significant these representations are with how the comic has been drawn. To ask these questions would mean to ponder further on why characters are placed in their respective roles, and why their respective roles have come together to interact with one another. ““Historian Bradford Wright has written, “Comic books are history.” As primary sources of popular culture, they have emerged from a specific context, reflecting the politics, prejudices’ and concerns of a particular historical moment. Comics have also shaped the outlook of America’s young people.” (Aiken 1).

Villains and Heroes

The explorers in the story are meant to be a placeholder in the comic’s presentation of to show what the stakes are for the characters. So one question is, how have these representations allowed the comic to display its features on what is villainized and what is praised as the heroic ones? And what other features besides the characters exist in the comic itself? So first things first, there comes the depictions of the drawings and depictions of the explorers. Since the explorers are pinning themselves willingly against the Japanese Kamikaze holdout, they have to be drawn a certain way since they are supposed to be a small band against an entire army that’s awaiting them. Throughout the story, the explorers are drawn as silhouettes, showing their movements as they are in constant motion, appearing rather tense and showing a bit of anger on their faces.

Commando Comics No. 21 “Doc Stearne” January 1946, Bell and Features Publishing, p.47

Since they are moving into a space which they aren’t welcome, they are forced to move into the Japanese hideout since they have had a deed that they had also considered unwelcoming, which came in the form of capturing the explorer’s companion, Gloria. So in return, they are retaliating with brute force, which the strategy that they use to retaliate via an explosion would result in the Japanese hideout going up in flames.

As for the Japanese soldiers that are featured within the comic themselves, they all appear to be tensed up as some of them are preparing to stand guard to defend their own territory. But in addition, since the story is taking place in Northern Canada, they would most likely be making attempts to maintain their location on foreign soil that they don’t belong in. One of the main incentives for them to stand their ground and guard their hideout is due to the fact that they have Gloria in their captivity. And as for Gloria herself, she is the only female character to be drawn into the comic’s story.

Commando Comics No. 21 “Doc Stearne” January 1946, Bell and Features Publishing, p.50

The story would not even begin to move anywhere, nor would it have revealed any of its threats, in this case the Japanese, without Gloria’s initial capture in the beginning of the comic’s story. So this is where ‘Doc Stearne’ and its characters are split up in terms of their roles. The explorers are supposed to represent the heroes fighting to free Gloria, while the Japanese are presented as the villains who are trying to keep Gloria from getting away, as she is shown restrained with her arms tied and lifted above her. This is where we can bring gender into question with regards to determining these roles.

How does Gender fit?

To bring gender into question with relation to this story is, how this comic has distinctively and uniquely presented its own story is how it has been fabricated to display its own messages and themes together in a compressed package. First off, the story is only six pages long, and the rescue mission is shown to be cut away into very quick segments of a single story. Potentially, this comic could have been written to an extent where the writers decide for them to write a fully fleshed out story, but they instead choose the faster path and give us six pages instead. The very interesting distinction that this comic has allowed us to get is how the main protagonists are more hidden behind silhouettes, and yet the antagonist are the ones that possess a face throughout. Also incorporating itself into the presentation of the comics is the results that comes with the ending results of the protagonists and antagonists, with regards to what’s left behind after the progression of the story continues. The actions that are taken by the characters, and who’s shown to have been affected, ultimately comes from the carnage of the environments around them. And keep in mind that these protagonists, though they were shown to display some competency towards wielding weapons, were only explorers and not a league of superheroes, or an elite band of soldiers.

“JAP BEAST AND HIS PLOT TO RAPE THE WORLD” Propaganda Image. Country Press, 1942.

They weren’t obligated to attack the Japanese, since they, as explorers, wouldn’t have wanted to have any sort of conflict with them.

Commando Comics No. 21 “Doc Stearne” January 1946, Bell and Features Publishing, p.45

But now that the Japanese have caused that disturbance to the explorers, it has now marked the two male groups against one another, while the one female character waits to see the end result of whose side she will stay with at the end of the story.

Historical relations and inspiration

So it is now time to connect the dots with the comic and bits and pieces of research to understand the significance of the comic’s featured imagery and its uniqueness of its own story telling format. This is to explore the significance of the previously listed images and drawings from this comic. Let’s start with the Japanese antagonists. Recall that in the story, they have been portrayed as the main driving force against the heroes, and they have been portrayed in a way that makes them look tense, standing guard in their respective positions as they were protecting their hideout. “This preoccupation mixed the unknowns of a complex language, an ‘alien’ race and an ‘exotic’ culture with the response from Europe and America to a rising Asian power and the re-ordering of the world of nineteenth-century empires.” (Everest-Philips 7). With this statement, it relates back to the narrative of the comic with Everest-Philips’ comments on the response of the Imperial Japanese Army and how they had been received previously during the time of the war. This could indicate towards the inspiration that Fred Kelly would have had to draw upon to create the material and drawings, depicting the Japanese in his comic and the reactions that the explorers had with their presence and actions. Furthermore, relating back to the protagonists of the story, the explorers, “Allegations of foreign subversion often play an important part for political leadership in promoting a sense of national unity, clarifying national values and providing a high moral sanction and sense of righteousness.” (Everest-Philips 21). The “righteousness”, the “clarification of national values”, “high moral sanction” connects towards the explorers while the “foreign subversion” is connected towards the drawings of the Japanese in the comic, as a presence being intrusive in attempts to dominate and assert their will and power. Despite the attempt in the comic to showcase the Japanese as dominant figures, they still remained to have been left for the heroes to show their own retaliation on sequences such as page 49 and 50 resulting in a giant fire as the aftermath of their response. Raiding the base to free Gloria paints them as the righteous characters who are fighting against the Japanese who are considered the antagonists of the story as a purging event for them to pay for their intrusion. This also ties in with the tragic event that had put an end to the Second World War: the Atomic bombs being dropped on Japan. “The most powerful symbols of Japan’s defeat were the atomic bombs. It was the sheer scale of the destructiveness of these bombs that anointed the Japanese for ever as victims of the war.” (Shimazu 10). “Due to the highly politicized nature of the atomic bombs as the symbol of extremities — both peace and war — memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have become an internationalized memory of the war.” (10). Due to the fiery exit that the heroes are shown in the comic, as they are walking away with as the victors and with Gloria in their safety. The artists who have created and drawn this comic in 1946 would have had fresh bits and pieces with the fresh highlights of the end of the Second World War just occurring the previous year. In the crafting of this story, making those decisions to draw this story arc would have been influenced by that complete collapse of Japan’s Empire in 1945. The sense of victory and triumph could have been further celebrated with the releases of these comics, in a way, humiliating and tarnishing the image of the former empire, leaving the heroes to be shown as the righteous ones with freeing a character who could not fight for herself.

Conclusion

The chosen representations drawn and written specifically for this short story has been shown as a by-product with responses given an artistic treatment shown by comic artists wishing to capture a piece of the passing war. Depicting these characters in this related story has shown the types of characters that comic artists at the time would have been inspired to draw, and in the case of ‘Doc Stearne’, it has shown that inspiration being brought together into a tightly compressed package. In conclusion, ‘Doc Stearne’ in Commando Comics No. 21 has shown itself to reinforce those values of constructing the image of heroism through gender roles, while ultimately painting the image of a defeated enemy that has had their invasive tyranny come to an end thanks to the efforts of the depicted heroes fighting against that tyranny.


Work Cited 

Aiken, Katherine G. “Superhero History: Using Comic Books to Teach U.S. History.” OAH Magazine of History vol. 24 no. 2, April 2010 pp 41-47.

Everest-Philips, Max. “The Pre-War Fear of Japanese Espionage: Its Impact and Legacy.” Journal of Contemporary History. vol.42 no.2, April 2007, pp. 243-265.

Kelly, Fred. “Doc Stearne” Commando Comics No. 21. January, 1946. pp. 44-50. Bell Features  Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166550.pdf

Lenthall, Bruce. “Outside the Panel – Race in Americaʼs Popular Imagination: Comic Strips before and After World War II.” Journal of American Studies. vol. 32 no.1, April 1998, pp. 39-61.

Shimazu, Naoko. “Popular Representations of the Past: The Case of Postwar Japan.” Journal of Contemporary History vol. 38, no. 1, January 2003 pp. 101-116.


Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Dizzy Don and the Pompous Propaganda, Issue 2017

Copyright © 2017 Matthew Perfetti, Ryerson University

Introduction:

By Martin Goodman
Captain America breaking the fourth wall to promote the purchase of War bonds. Martin Goodman. USA Comics #7, 1943

            Propaganda and comics were huge during the 1940’s since it took place during the Second World War.  Dizzy Don, a Canadian comic series created by Manny Easson, and the idea of Carpooling, a way of saving gasoline, were both born during this era.  Because comics were becoming popular and being nearly read by everyone, the government had an idea to incorporate propaganda and comics together, essentially killing two birds with one stone as people tuning into the comics despite not wanting anything to do with propaganda would always have a dose of politics without them noticing.  the characters themselves can be seen behaving in different ways; example Captain America asking readers to buy War bonds to help America win the war.  Dizzy Don, despite being a Canadian comic had done the same thing with their comic issue 13, The Black Gas Racket, promoting the idea that carpooling was the way to go.  I will discuss how Dizzy Don helps promotes the carpooling propaganda through its distinct humorous nature, proving that comics and propaganda did go hand in hand during the war.  “Selling war bonds actually, they used the characters for that purpose, that I defiantly knew they did that, and apparently it was successful because they did quite a bit of that ….. they did a lot of work for the government.” (Carmine Infantino, 2:58 – 3:20)

World War II Rubber Problem and the birth of Carpooling:

Make sure not to ride by yourself or else the Führer will be right next to you. Weimer Pursell. Painted for the U.S. Government Printing Office for the Office of Price Administration, 1943.

            World War II was an advancing time in history, it was an age of competition with other countries, being a step ahead in the war was important but sometimes in order to meet the demand, there had to be limitations.  In the case of the United States, it was actually rubber since it was hard to mass produce.  The means of saving rubber was to produce fewer tires for civilian vehicles and instead focus it all on the tanks and other war machines.  A way of getting around not producing as many car tires was to limit the use of cars themselves; less wear and tear meant fewer people would ask for tire replacements resulting in more rubber for the war.  Instead of going around telling people to stop using rubber, they created the idea that America needed to save gasoline for the war despite oil being plentiful and not difficult to obtain.  They introduced the idea of carpooling, it was basically sharing one vehicle with multiple people that way there would be fewer cars as often since one driver could drive up to five people to work at the same time, essentially getting rid of multiple cars off the road.  Propaganda such as my personal favourite “If you ride alone you ride with Hitler” were effective of getting people to go cruising with their neighbors’ instead of driving by themselves. With the decrease of cars on the road, rubber was no longer a scarce resource, helping America build more tanks and aiding their war efforts immensely; the idea was a complete success.

Dizzy Don’s relation with World War II Propaganda:

On the left we see the Villian being the only driver while on the right we see our Heros driving together. Easson, Manny.”Dizzy Don and the Black Gas Racket”. Funny comics, no. 13 September 1944, pp. 3 and 4

            Dizzy Don was a Canadian comic series known for its comedic nature of its time but also can be seen to have political undertones, more so during World War II.  On 1944’s Issue 13 of Dizzy Don and the Black Racket, Dizzy Don and the gang have to stop a mob of black market thugs trying to sell gasoline illegally.  Seems harmless until you notice all the small hints for promoting the carpooling lifestyle; Dizzy Don is seen always driving never alone but with a group of his friends meanwhile, the villains are always driving by themselves, the crooks also waste gas by blowing up vehicles or setting gasoline tanks on fire just to escape.  The comic doesn’t directly tell but rather visually lets you know that to be a good guy you don’t waste fuel but if you do you’re the bad guy.  It’s a smart technique to help push a motive to society, showing the protagonist perform certain actions will most likely influence fans of the series to do the same.  To say that carpooling paid Manny Easson to feature their propaganda in his comic is hard to say and near impossible to prove nowadays but to think that Manny Easson got influenced by the propaganda itself is quite believable.

The Humor of Dizzy Don:

Ernie Kovacs on the left, Manny Easson in the middle and an early sketch of Dizzy Don on the right. Kocmarek , Ivan. “Easson Find.” Comicbookdaily, Whites Tsunami, WECA Splashes, 10 Dec. 2014,

            Delving into the humor of Dizzy Don, Manny Easson took inspiration of Ernie Kovacs, a famous comedian who pioneered TV comedy today with the Ernie Kovacs show.  The design of Dizzy Don even took inspiration of Kovacs attire, including his stature as well.  Kovacs style of humor was skit based, featuring short plots that were full of humor and quite bizarre, whether it be drowning a scarecrow, women having a drug trip on what to wear, or three apes playing instruments, it was out there, especially for its time.  Easson nailed the style with Dizzy Don, it’s hard to describe it but if you had read Dizzy Don and watched an Ernie Kovacs skit you’d automatically see the resemblance, even down to the characters like Kovacs’ female companion and trusty sidekick in some of his re-occurring skits, the exact same layout as with Dizzy Don.  Dizzy Don’s style of humor was quick and explosive, a lot of stuff would happen all at once but it flowed well enough that the reader wouldn’t get lost in the chaos, similar to that of a Kovacs skit.  Because the humor was fast-paced, subliminal messages can be easily overlooked as each panel wasn’t meant to be viewed for too long since most of the humor came from the obvious visual gag and writing.  This can result in propaganda being merged within the humor itself, such as Dizzy Don’s sidekick, Bill, blows up a gas tank full of fuel resulting in him getting blown up but in an innocent way (not dead, just Looney Tunes style), or just the abundance of car crashes in issue itself, all in done in a slapstick kind of way, but why so many?  Is there a secret message being told? the answer to that question is yes.  Since the issue was dated in 1944, the same time the propaganda regarding fuel conversing and carpooling was huge, also taking into consideration of Easson’s love of American television seen by his appreciation to American stars like Ernie Kovacs, resulting in absorbing more of said advertisement, I can simply say there is a high probability Easson made this issue of Dizzy Don as a means for sharing his opinion with the viewers of his comic.  An author will usually put their thoughts and opinions into their works, mostly hidden through the style, in this case, the humor.  For someone who isn’t into politics, they wouldn’t think much of it but rather view it as just Easson’s style of humor which it is but with a political twist.  Politics and humor have always gone hand to hand, this comic is no exception.

            The Verdict:

What we can take from the information we have learned is that comics and propaganda do work together to help push an idea to the public, more so during the time of WWII.  It was important for comics to do such because it was this time comic books were in its prime, the number of people tuning in to the next issue was astonishing so it made sense to put forms of advertisement within a comic, including propaganda; it was a sure way of getting more people to look.  Manny Easson, a fan of US television shown by his love of Ernie Kovacs style of humor, it would seem possible for his issue 13 of Dizzy Don, The Black Gas Racket, to be centered around carpooling as it was common propaganda during the time of its release.  Perhaps Easson simply wanted to share his ideas, thinking it was right for him to push an idea to help out the soldiers, it was probably the most he can do.  Sadly we can never know for certain if this was intentional or not, despite all the little hints pointing towards that conclusion, nothing can be confirmed.  However, it’s nice to discuss Dizzy Don, it was an underappreciated comic series with a lot of passion put into it; it was sadly swallowed by the much higher budget comics during its time and was overlooked because of it, (it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page).  Hopefully, this research can shed light on a series that has been dead for ages.

The ending page for most Dizzy Don comics, showcasing all the sponsors and other comics from the same company. Easson, Manny.”Dizzy Don and the Black Gas Racket”. Funny comics, no. 13 September 1944, pp. 3 and 4

 


Work cited:

  1. 1. Kelly, Mark. “The Golden Age of Comic Books: Representations of American Culture from the Great Depression to the Cold War.” Epublications, Marquette University, epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=dittman.
  2. Kocmarek , Ivan. “Manny ‘Dizzy Don’ Easson.” Comicbookdaily, Whites Tsunami, WECA Splashes, 11 Apr. 2013, www.comicbookdaily.com/collecting-community/whites-tsunami-weca-splashes/manny-dizzy-don-easson/.
  3. Kocmarek , Ivan. “Easson Find.” Comicbookdaily, Whites Tsunami, WECA Splashes, 10 Dec. 2014, www.comicbookdaily.com/collecting-community/whites-tsunami-weca-splashes/easson-find/.
  4. Long, Tony. “Dec. 1, 1942: Mandatory Gas Rationing, Lots of Whining.” Wired, Conde Nast, 29 Aug. 2017, www.wired.com/2009/11/1201world-war-2-gasoline-rationing/.
  5. Quednau, Rachel. “WWII Carpooling Propaganda.” Strong Towns, Quednau, 8 Oct. 2015, www.strongtowns.org/journal/2015/10/8/wwii-carpooling-propaganda.
  6.  Easson, Manny.”Dizzy Don and the Black Gas Racket”. Funny comics, no. 13 September 1944, pp. 2-3. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b2611399
  7. Viotte, Michel, director. Spider-Man – Once Upon a Time the Super HeroesOnce Upon A Time The Super Heroes , 23 Dec. 2001, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySOOLp_SoDw.

 

The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don no.12 and WWII Propaganda

© Copyright 2017 Simon Mancuso, Ryerson University

The “Canadian Whites” and WWII Propaganda

Introduction

“The Canadian Whites” collection of comics provides a unique window into culture and the political climate during the Second World War. In the WWII era, propaganda played a vital role in contributing to the war effort and influenced the public on a mass scale. Allied governments distributed this pro-war content through a variety of media outlets including films, cartoons, posters and comic books. During the war every available media outlet was re-purposed to serve as a propaganda tool. The Funny Comics With dizzy Don and The Secret Weapon (Issue 12) is an example of a comic intend for children’s entertainment being used as a vehicle to distribute government messaging to citizens across the country. Throughout the comic there are multiple examples of this, ranging from the narrative itself to the illustration of its characters. This analysis will focus on those two aspects examining the depiction of the main antagonist “The Black Hand”, a shadowy and evil figure that although never appears as human in the comic is a symbolic representation of Nazi Germany. As well as the narrative itself which offers a variety of pro-war and pro-government themes that walk a fine line between entertainment and subliminal messaging. The purpose of this analysis is to understand how media and specifically this comic were used by the Canadian government as a distribution platform as well as cheap entertainment for children. A variety of evidence will be used to demonstrate this connection ranging from news articles about the government pressuring authors to insert pro war messaging into their work to Donald Duck and his cartoon commercials asking us to support the troops. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don is a clear example of a deliberate attempt on behalf of the Canadian government to re-purpose mass media as propaganda tools.

What is Propaganda?

Before analyzing how The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don is being used as a propaganda tool it is important to begin by establishing a definition of the term.  The term propaganda is defined as “any information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.” (Møllegaard, 2012) This definition will be used in this study to refer to a variety of illustrations and narrative themes present in The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don as well as other secondary sources. Traditionally “propaganda” is used as a derogatory term that is often accompanied by malicious intent. However, throughout this analysis a variety of examples of propaganda will be examined, some of which is hateful whereas others are harmless. For example, depictions of women and children being used to sell war bonds is an instance of harmless propaganda. Hateful propaganda occurs when the imagery or texts resort to racism or cultural stereotyping to purposefully demean its target. Examples of both are present throughout the illustration in Secret Weapon Both styles are equally effective at stirring emotional responses from their viewers, the former empathy and the latter hate.

Throughout the Second World War propaganda was a constant presence across a variety of media outlets including posters and news articles and in film where pre-show recruitment ads have become a famous symbol of World War Two era America. It is important to preface this analysis by stating that the goal is not to critique the style and content shown within these comics and posters, but to simply examine the methods in which they are used as tools to distribute a message.

Conspiracy?

The concept of the Canadian government deliberately inserting pro-military and pro-war propaganda into independent media outlets is not beyond the realm of possibility. In fact, it occurred during the Second World War on many occasions. Multiple news articles were published on the topic stating that the Canadian government was putting pressure on local authors to push government messages. In 1940, the Hamilton Spectator published an article titled “Important Task Facing Writers of the Country”. The opening line in the article reads “Canadian writers have the clear and definite duty of keeping the democratic ideal constantly before the nation’s eye.” (Hamilton Spectator, 1940) This article focuses on the responsibility that was placed upon the nations writers to communicate to the country’s youth that they are fighting an honorable and good fight. A second article titled “The Government Propaganda Machine is now in High Gear” written in the same year for the Toronto Telegram, elaborates further on this concept. This article talks about the censorship bureaus established in Ottawa who control the output of content by various media outlets. The article states that “Canadians generally may be unaware that since the outbreak of the war something in the nature of a press bureaucracy has been established in Ottawa. First of all, there are the Press Censors whose. purpose it is to scan carefully whatever is published.” (Toronto Telegram, 1940) The article goes on to talk about a “publicity corps” whose responsibility it was to make sure government messaging is communicated to the public. “Alongside the press censors there is being built up at Ottawa a publicity corps whose job it is to get government announcements and statements of policy in the newspapers.” (Toronto Telegram, 1940)

These two articles are incredibly important when establishing the argument that the Government was manipulating media by controlling what content was published and inserting pro-war messages. The quotes in these articles make reference to specific government organizations such as the “publicity corps” and “Press Censors” tasked with the goal of inserting propaganda messaging into mass media across the country. The existence of these articles establishes a precedent by acknowledging that the government was willing to pressure these independent media organizations. If they were willing to approach newspapers and authors, it’s not irrational to believe they would so the same with comics.

What About Dizzy Don?

Easson, Manny, and Bell Features, editors. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don: No. 12. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1944.

Both the illustration and the overarching narrative of The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don and The Secret Weapon support the argument that this comic moonlights as government propaganda. The first example of propaganda within illustration comes through the depiction of the comic’s main antagonist “The Black Hand of Treason”. This character is important for many reasons. Primarily, it’s the driving force behind the story of the comic. This issue of Dizzy Don is less about the victory of its heroes and more about the demonization of its villain, who is frequently described as evil and cowardly throughout. The Black Hand of Treason is not a character in the traditional sense instead of taking the form of an individual it simply appears as a monstrous hand in the story. Because of this, the villain is not portrayed as a person but instead it exists as a symbol. The Black Hand is a symbolic representation of Nazi Germany as explained in the comic when mad scientist Mortimer Midge says, “It is a Nazi group, they want to prevent my secret weapon from being used by our armies” (Easson, 9) When German and Japanese characters are illustrated within the comic their depiction is consistent with the overtly racialized and stereotypical features found in other propaganda imagery such as large ears or buck teeth.  The portrayal of these characters throughout the comic draw direct comparison to government messaging and the illustrations are consistent with traditional propaganda.

The narrative of the comic further supports the idea of comics being re-purposed as propaganda tools. The story follows the adventures of Radio Host Dizzy Don as he gets embroiled in a top-secret plan to develop a machine that will win the war for the allies. Over the course of the story Dizzy repeatedly faces off against the The Black Hand of Treason an organization trying to steal or destroy that machine. Within the first few pages of the comic it is made clear that there isn’t going to be any thoughtful commentary on World War II era politics. Instead its predetermined that the heroes will win, and the bad guys are going to lose. Throughout the story none of the characters confront meaningful adversity and all encounters with the antagonists are quickly shrugged off without much effort. The story wraps up quickly with a perfect happy ending as the allied military put the machine into production and win the war. The comic itself reads more like a recruitment ad than a story. Overall this makes for a boring and linear narrative that presents a black and white portrayal of good and evil and a pro-government, pro-military attitude that is consistent with the propaganda of era.

But How?

The depiction of the Black Hand throughout the comic can be understood as propaganda for many reasons. The purpose of propaganda is to “to influence people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors” (Møllegaard, 2012) and The Black Hand fulfills these requirements in several ways. The comic influences peoples attitude towards the character by establishing it as the villain. Furthermore, the comic goes out of its way to re-iterate how villainous the Black Hand is by continuously referring to it as evil and cowardly. When comparing that depiction to that of the heroes, who are described as smart, honest and loyal a clear line is drawn between the two sides. The comic is carefully constructed to make the reader hate the Black Hand as a symbol of Nazi Germany. The writers also avoid making any controversial political statements throughout the story, making it clear who the good and the bad guys are. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don are primarily a joke comic series and “The Black Hand” is always the target of a witty one liner delivered by Dizzy. Whether or not this impacted the behavior of its readers is impossible to say, but the intention to portray them as laughable and incompetent is clear.

Odell, Gordon. “Keep Those Hands Off” Canadian War Museum. 1945

The illustration of “The Black Hand” also has direct connections with war propaganda posters. The poster shown here portrays two monstrous hands enclosing themselves around a woman and her child. This illustration is identical to the depiction of the Black Hand in the comic. Within the hands are German and Japanese symbols, this not only verifies that the Black Hand is a symbol of Nazi Germany but proves there is consistent imagery between the comic and a traditional propaganda poster.

Consistency is one of the most important factors to consider when trying to run a successful propaganda campaign. Ensuring that citizens can quickly relate images seen in posters with illustrations they see in their own living room is important. This is because it allows them to relate to what they are seeing and create emotional connections, whether they be positive or negative. These emotional connections are vital because they spur people to act on their message. For example, if someone saw an ad for war bonds that gave them a strong emotional response they would be more inclined to purchase them. More examples of this can be seen in the comic when examining the depiction of a Japanese character. Although he only appears in one frame and has no dialogue, the overly stereotyped and racially insensitive illustration is similar to the portrayal of Japanese people in World War II era propaganda. The poster below is an example of one of those depictions. The long-pointed ears and buck teeth shown in the poster on the right are features consistent with the illustration in the comic.

Unknown Author. “Tokyo Kid Say” 1945

“The Funny Comics” are not the only instance of cartoon characters being used as vehicles for government propaganda. Iconic characters such as Donald Duck have been used to try and sell war-bonds and send pro-military messages to their viewers. This video is an advertisement run in 1942 in which Donald’s devil side and angel side fight over where he should spend his hard-earned money, on himself or to buy bonds. (notice the evil Nazi mailbox) This proves that children’s cartoons are being used to sell pro-government content.

“The Canadian Whites” comics offer an illuminating view into the state of society and political ideology during the second world war. Based on the precedent established by multiple news outlets and the connections between imagery and themes within the comic to other sources it is clear that the Canadian government utilized a variety of mass media sources, including The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don as a vehicle to distribute propaganda.


Work Cited

  • Canada, National Film Board of. Shameless Propaganda. 2014. www.nfb.ca, https://www.nfb.ca/film/shameless_propaganda/.
  • Easson, Manny, and Bell Features, editors. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don: No. 12. Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1944.
  • Frohardt-Lane., SARAH. “Promoting a Culture of Driving: Rationing, Car Sharing, and Propaganda in World War II.” Journal of American Studies, vol. 46, no. 2, 2012, p. 337.
  • MacKay, Robin. “49th Parallel: The Art of Propaganda.” Queen’s Quarterly, vol. 123, no. 4, 2016, p. 572.
  • Møllegaard, Kirsten. “Comic Art Propaganda: A Graphic History FredrikStrömberg. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010.” The Journal of American Culture, vol. 35, no. 2, June 2012, p. 192
  • Odell, Gordon. “Keep Those Hands Off” Canadian War Museum. 1945, http://www.warmuseum.ca/collections/artifact/1019599/.
  • The Hamilton Spectator. WarMuseum.ca – Democracy at War – Information, Propaganda, Censorship and the Newspapers. 1940 http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/newspapers/information_e.shtml.
  • Toronto Telegram. “Government Propaganda Machine Now in High Gear.” July 1940
  • Unknown. “Tokyo Kid Say” 1945

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Japanese Representation in World War II Comics -The Funny Comics With Dizzy Don no.17.

© Copyright 2017 Francesca Jamshidy Student, Ryerson University

Japanese Representation in World War II Comics

Introduction

This digital exhibit intends to analyze the historical conflicts between Canada and Japan During World War II, specifically when it came to the media. The rivalry between Japan and Canada is not discussed often when it comes to World War II, but in this exhibit, I want to shine light on how the unflattering portrayal of Japanese characters in “In the Human Rocket” in the series The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, is connected to the historical context of the conflict between Japan and Canada during World War II. The tension between Canada and Japan is depicted through Easson’s writing style, the way setting is represented in panels surrounding Japanese people and the Japanese characters physical appearance.

Writing Style in World War II Comics

The introduction to the comic is free of tension. There is a quick introduction to all the characters. This is done in order to familiarize new readers with the who is going to be in the story and what their relationship is to one another, from main characters to supporting characters. Unfortunately, after reading through the comic, it is apparent that there is one character which is excluded from the introduction, and that character is Japanese. Not only is this character not introduced, but he is also referred to as “Tokyo Joe” (13), once he is a named, or noted, character. By being referred to as Tokyo Joe, it is made apparent that his character is being “othered” as this distinction separates him from the other generic Canadian characters. In the 1940’s “younger children were preoccupied with many projects” however, “there was a fear that teenagers might be corrupted by the lack of supervision during the war” (Stranger Ross, et at.). By slipping casual racism into remarks that teenagers read, the creators of these comics were exploiting the impressionable minds of teenagers. This implied that it was okay to grow up believing and repeating racist remarks. An example of this is on page 13 when the only Japanese character is referred to as the “Stooges of Japan”, which was another form of calling him stupid. During the Second World War “Canadian policies emerged from the war… [exemplifying] long- standing racism” (Stranger-Ross, et al.), which later reflected upon not only comics but other forms of media as well. Within Easson’s work, it is evident that racism is encouraged. Tokyo Joe is only given the chance to speak once during the entire comic and the one time he speaks he is grammatically incorrect. Rather than saying “It’s not so easy my friend” instead he says “No so easy, my friend” (13), insinuating that Tokyo Joe is the only character with an accent or an inability to speak without grammatical errors. These details used to write the comic are ultimately meant to show the difference between Japan and Canada. What many Canadians didn’t know according to the article “Government Propaganda Machine Is Now in High Gear” (1940), is that during the time period that the comic issue was made there was pressed censorship. People carefully looked through work from articles to books and continued to do that during the war, in order to make sure nothing was written to comfort the enemy. This showed how controlled the media was during this time period. This also included comics, with this information it now makes sense as to why the only Japanese character was portrayed unfairly by Manny Easson. Japan was considered the enemy that the Canadian Government wanted to scare.

Background Settings

When reading a comic, a character’s physical appearance stands out right away, what many do not realize is that the background and setting of an image can subconsciously manipulate and infer/alter things into a certain perspective. When looking at “In the Human Rocket”, and analyzing the background setting within images, there is an automatic and clear switch between the backgrounds of characters depending on where they are from. Since this essay is examining the relationship between Japan and Canada, the first thing that was automatically analyzed was the background setting behind the only character that was not Canadian. When looking at the background setting of the only character not from Canada within the comic it is quite evident that his ethnicity is overly expressed through his surrounding in order to alienate him from every other character in the comic. Looking at the picture on the

Fig.1. Manny, Easson. Panel from “In the Human Rocket.” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 17, April 1945, Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, p.13. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/ e011166608.pdf

left (Figure 1) taken from Manny Easson comic “In the Human Rocket” in the series The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don (13), right away one can see that “Tokyo Joe” has a picture of a sun symbolizing the Japanese flag and a dragon on his table cloth, both details placed in the background automatically let readers know that he is from Japan and not like the other character. On the same page in the 4th panel Easson zooms into Tokyo Joe with only the sun beams from the image behind him
showing, nothing more, as if to infer the only attribute and supporting information to him is his ethnicity, leaving readers with only two things, he is the villain in this comic and he is Japanese. What aids this theory that background, and settings are purposely placed and drawn in images in order to support the negative portrayal and alienation of Japanese people in this time period, is that it is an on-going trend, the portrayal in this comic is not an isolated incident, it happened throughout many forms of media. Below on the left there is a propaganda poster found on “Canadian Propaganda Posters” Mystery in History, published online in 2014 this website had posters from Canada during the second World War. Automatically when comparing the comic to this poster (Figure 2)

Fig.2. “This Is the Enemy”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery in History, June 2014, collected at https://mysteryinhistory.wordpress.com/2
014/06/10/canadian-propaganda-posters/
Fig.3. Manny, Easson. Panel from “In the Human Rocket.” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, No. 17, April 1945, Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, p.35. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e44
7/e011166608.pdf

it is glaring to note that they were created by different artists yet they both have the same things in common, the sun rays signifying that this person is of Japanese descent and a negative portrayal of the character/person of Japanese descent. This was clearly not a coincidence but rather a tool to ensure Canadians feared Japanese people. This fear turned into a hatred because during the Second World War since Japanese people were considered the enemy “22,000 Japanese Canadians were uprooted from their homes, separated from their families, and sent away to camps” (Government Apologizes, 1988). Sadly, these people were being punished for simply being of Japanese descent although they were Canadian citizens, and many were even born and raised in Canada that was still not enough. When comparing this to Manny Easson’s illustrations, attention can quickly be brought to the only other image drawn of Tokyo Joe (Figure 3). In this image Tokyo Joe is behind bars (35). He could have been placed in any setting, perhaps at the police station or an interrogation room but instead he is last seen in jail. His imprisonment is a direct correlation to Japanese Canadians being sent to camps because that was a form of their own torture and jail. This is relevant because the jail setting showed a negative portrayal of the only Japanese character within the comic. By having the last image of Tokyo Joe being behind bars it is also arguably a comforting image as he is seen as less of a threat, providing a sense of closure to the previously established impressionable minds, since the enemy is depicted to be “contained”. This ultimately proves through background and setting, Japanese people were being targeted in many forms of media, this comic included, due to the tension between Canada and Japan during World War II.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Physical Characteristics

Unfortunately, things did not simply end with settings and backgrounds but rather got worse when it came to physical characteristics of Japanese people. When looking at “In the Human Rocket” the physical appearance of Tokyo Joe in comparison to everyone else is significantly different, not just in terms of historically accurate physical differences. According to the “Canadian Propaganda Posters,” Mystery in History (2014), stereo-types were exaggerated in the propaganda posters and in the media when it came to Japanese people.

Fig.4. “Tokio Kid”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery in History, June 2014, collected at https://mysteryinhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/
10/canadian-propaganda-posters/

This exaggeration can be seen from teeth to eyes, even their ears were made fun of. In the poster above (Figure 4) published by “Canadian Propaganda Posters” (2014), the man shown is by far the most terrifying thing at first sight. When analyzing he does not look anything like a human but instead he is portrayed as an animal. He has sharp pointy fangs, small eyes that need glasses, extremely pointy ears and claws. In addition, once again this poster shows the man has a hat with sun ray beams in order to let everyone who sees this poster know that the terrifying man within this image is Japanese. When analyzing the Tokyo Joe in the comic, differences were noted in comparison to other characters. Examples of this are that out of the two villains in the comic Tokyo Joe is dressed in all black signifying darkness just like all the other portrayals of Japanese people. His mouth if looked at closely can be seen in an upside-down position rather than smiling. If given the chance to smile it could have shown a different outlook on him because people tend to be more appealing and inviting when they smile. But due to his constant frowning Easson was solely able to create a negative atmosphere for his character. Just like the poster he isn’t given a specific age but with the over exaggerated wrinkles one could assume he is prehistoric, lastly, he is the only character in the entire comic given glasses, supporting the stereotype of an inability to see. These physical characteristics are not only disgusting and incorrect, they are also a deliberate way to show that the portrayal of the Japanese culture and beauty is not celebrated but rather mocked.

Conclusion the “So What”

In conclusion, this exhibit intended to analyze how the unflattering portrayal of Japanese characters in “In the Human Rocket” in the series The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, was due to the tension between Canada and Japan during World War II. The war and the comic connected to one another because they were created during the same time period. It was also intended to analyze how the tension was deep rooted and how due to the negative portrayal of Japanese people, Canada’s fear had quickly turned into prejudice and anger, leading to the horrible events that occurred and affected many Japanese-Canadians. This was shown by many artists in many forms of media during the 1940’s, including Manny Easson’s work. Through his writing style, the way he drew the settings around those of Japanese descent and the overall illustration of Japanese characters, with specific detailing to their physical appearances, his work as well as many others proved my theory that the comic was used in combinations with other media platforms intending to encourage a prejudice against people of Japanese descent. It is also quite evident after analyzing different media forms that Japanese people were villainized whether through animalistic representations to being made the enemy which needed to be put behind bars to ensure a feeling of safety during the hard times when Canada was at war.

 


 Works Cited

“Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery In History, June 2014, mysteryinhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/canadian-propaganda-posters/.

Cook, Tim. “Canadian Children and The Second World War.” Historica Canada, December 2016, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/canadian-children-and-wwii/.

Easson, M. “In the Human Rocket.” The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don, no. 17, April, 1945, pp.1-35. Canadian Whites Comic Book Collection, 1941-1946. RULA Archives and Special Collections, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

“Governments Propaganda Machine Is Now in High Gear.” The Toronto Telegram, Canadian War Museum, July 1940, http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/newspapers/information_e.shtml

Stranger-Ross, Jordan., & Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective. “Suspect Properties: The Vancouver Origins of the Forced Sale of Japanese-Canadian-owned Property, WWII.” Journal of Planning History, vol. 15, no. 4, February 2016, pp. 271-89. https://doi- org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.1177%2F1538513215627837

“Tokio Kid”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery In History, June 2014,  mysteryinhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/canadian-propaganda-posters/.

“This Is the Enemy”, “Canadian Propaganda Posters.” Mystery In History, June 2014, mysteryinhistory.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/canadian-propaganda-posters/.

“1988: Government Apologizes to Japanese Canadians – CBC Archives.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, March 2017, www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/1988-government-apologizes-to- japanese-canadians.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Manipulation by Media

Children are easily manipulated as they are seen as innocent and naive. Children do not have the education to learn what the real reason is behind the madness that occurs every day. Events will happen all over the world and children will not be capable to grasp a proper understanding as to why it is happening. This is solely due to the lack of education on history. A major historic event that had a change in the world, was World War II in 1939. World War II made an impact on everyone all around the world especially in the media, as it was largely impacted. During this time, comics were very popular and they contained many different stories that were targeted towards war. A comic would show an example of how children were not being properly taught about an event. The use of racism, violence, and hatred was incorporated negatively in these comics. In my comic, there was an advertisement for war stamps that involved the illustration of Adolph Hitler. My comic found on page 15 of WOW Comics issue No. 10 (1945). Specifically focused on the aim for children to purchase war stamps. The purchase of war stamps was easier to persuade to children due to their age and young mentality. The sales of war stamps are one of the factors which helped fund the war, for it was important to keep the children engaged in purchasing. Depending on the perspective, this comic advertisement can be interpreted as a deeper meaning. This can be proven through the history presented, the illustrations, the vocabulary used and the dramatic events which unfolded in front of children in World War II.

Children and History: Historic Childhood Novelty

I found that the history of World War II was very effective while looking at this comic advertisement. Without looking into the history one would not be able to prove that children were very under-educated and manipulated. The media was able to target children with the use of comics and toys. Children have been targeted for many years, but it was most prominent during World War II because leaders found them to be more vulnerable (Martin Armstrong, 2014). In comparison to adults, children retain more information because they are continuously developing their own personalities and mentalities (David Machin and Theo Van Leeuwen, 2009). Children were targeted in this comic to purchase war stamps, however, they believed that by doing so they were helping fund the war for their nation. The message that they received was positive, as they were helping their families who were within the battle. At an impressionable age and with the passion to be involved, these children tried to come up with any way to make money. With whatever they earned, they would bring it to their school to purchase War Savings Stamps which they pinned into special booklets for post-war redemption. This created an appealing goal for them, by being able to fill and keep track of their unique stamps! Along with the mixed messages, there was the horrible bribery of the children that I found quite appalling. “Children learned to recycle and collect materials, such as metal, rubber, fat, and grease, which were reused to produce useful products for the war. In return for the children’s labour, different incentives were offered to the children such as free passes to the movies” (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2017). Apart from free movie screenings, children enjoyed playing with different toys in their free time. Toys were made to resemble the war; even today I still see these toys exist. These toys can consist of miniature soldiers, plastic machine guns, replica grenades and the full attire (David Machin and Theo Van Leeuwen, 2009). These toys would intrigue children, in relation to the plastic guns, those are not toys, even if they are plastic. These toys would intrigue a child and become an object of enjoyment, as opposed, to teaching them what their real purpose is, which is to injure and kill people. What I immediately thought was how boys-not girls because there was more sexism towards girls if they were caught wanting to play with these war toys; this could resemble their family that was out fighting for their lives. Young boys want to be able to follow in their parent’s footsteps, usually their fathers, which would make these toys more appealing. Further, into the research, it brought me to an article based on a true story made into a comic, about a young girl named  Hansi who loved the Swastika symbol (Figure 2).

This is something I found to be extremely inappropriate for a child to love. The Swastika symbol is the official emblem of the Nazi party and a symbol that holds a meaning of hatred. The Hansi comic book was part of a series of biographies of famous Christians in the 1970s. The Christian comic book was based on the autobiography of Maria Anne Hirschmann, who lived through World War II as a victim of the Germans propaganda (Comic Alliance Staff, 2010). She was an avid believer in the Bible, but then found herself intrigued and interested in the swastika.It was concerning as it is found unusual of such difference in an interest into something which negatively impacted the world. Further with age, she then returned back to her Christian faith.It was obvious the moral behind this comic, as it is showing you that your faith will always be there for you even when you do not realize it. By looking back on the history of World War II, I am able to further prove the point that children did not receive the proper education. If they had, these children would not want to resemble the toys they played with to war, misunderstand comics for wanting to help with the war and have a young girl who loved the swastika.

 

Illustration: Visual Stimulation 

I further my research on my topic by looking into the illustrations displayed in my comic advertisement. This comic I found was unique in the use of illustration, especially when looking at Hitler’s expression while he is saluting. The facial reaction displayed on Adolph Hitler plays a large part in the advertisement (Figure 3). Looking at his face is unsettling, we are not exactly sure how Hitler is feeling. Hitler looks disappointed when he is giving authority by saluting yet, he is not exactly proud of himself. He also looks guilty. When we see realistic photographs of Hitler, his face is usually flat and he has no emotion shown on his face. However, this comic shows him looking vulnerable and upset. This I find has a major effect on children because it will have the emotional grab; he does not look happy with what he is doing so why would someone else want to follow in his footsteps? It is also seen Hitler holding a swastika in his hand. My findings concluded that the swastika connected with the story of the young girl who loved the swastika symbol. This adds to the fact that children were easily manipulated through illustrations; most likely finding the symbol appealing because they would not understand the meaning behind it. Looking further into the illustration we can take notice of a solider showing force against Hitler. This I found portrayed violence, which should not be portrayed to young children. I think children should see that violence is not something that we approve, yet, this comic is showing our soldiers being violent towards one of the most notorious people in history. It is quite a contradicting illustration when discussing the impact of illustrations affecting children. Although they are young, this is the time their minds start to process information and remember things that they see such as the illustration in this comic. A child finds illustrations more appealing than vocabulary. However, in order for comics to be appealing to the young crowd, the illustrators had to use images rather than vocabulary to catch the individuals eye and have a reminding effect.

Vocabulary: Cunning Persuasion 

Lastly, a strong form of manipulation used throughout this comic is the vocabulary. There are two words that stand out to myself and those words are “heed” and “breed”. Heed is a word that expresses obedience, but also indicates a warning in this comic. Once defining this term and delving deeper into the meaning of it, I realized you have to pay attention to small details in the comic. I looked carefully at this and realized the word heed is used in an intentional way. I needed to focus on the main idea in this comic, which is Hitler. I paid more attention to him after this because what he did throughout his life was not right. His “breed,” aka the Germans, though they were doing good, but when we actually pay attention to the reality of it all, we know that Hitler was trying to create racial purity. In my article, the communicating text starts with: “A jerk called Adolph” which indicates that they are trying to keep an appropriate word for children instead of using a  vulgar term (Figure 4).

This portrays to the child that the term “jerk” would be a bad word, but not too bad as to reveal Hitler. In the verse following, “was once a kid” this removes Hitler’s scary nature, allowing children to feel somewhat empathetic. Thus, thinking that he was once like them being weak and vulnerable. Also, without caution to children of Hitler’s true nature, they might desire to be like him one day. Following that in the text, “But, when he grew up  just look what he did!” It is implying that the reader would know “what he did” and assumes they would share the same assessment as the comic author. Furthermore, the text says: “Now you” which is speaking directly to the reader of the comic. Also, reverting back to words spoke earlier which were: “can help destroy his breed,” which refers to Hitler’s mission which was to destroy the Jewish people. The ‘you’ in this ad is aimed at its readers to destroy Hitler’s breed. Hitler is known for his wanting to destroy the Jewish. There is a fine line between us attacking Hitler like, he is attacking the Jewish, it is displayed in this ad that we need to destroy his “breed” which does not equal justice. The comic displays Germans as a “breed,” just like animals, they are just something to be killed off as if they do not have to mean. We should not intend to equal the violence, we should show children that we want peace. Lastly, is the quote:  “if these words you will but heed… Buy War Stamps!” This is now trying to persuade its reader into thinking that they must buy these war stamps. The vocabulary in this comic advertisement was very particular, they added the persuasion, the double meaning and the second person perspective (WOW Comic, 1949).

In conclusion, I prove that the media has a large effect on children who lived through World War II. This was shown with the use of the historical information gathered through research of war stamps, as children paid and collected these stamps to help fund the war. The stamps were particularly advertised to children, as they were easy to persuade due to their age and passion for involvement. Secondly, toys which represented different war items allowed a child to have an imagination and feel like their mothers and fathers, who of which did their part to help the war. The true story of Hansi, allows us to understand the meaningful power of the swastika and that person’s faith will always follow them. Moreover, by looking at the illustration displayed in the comic, Hitlers image and expression is evident in showing a negative perspective. As well as, the vocabulary used, which allowed us to see many different aspects being persuasion, double meaning and the perspectives directed. Overall, comics had a lot of impacts, not only on the innocent young boys and girls but also in the aspect of how it portrayed media throughout the event of World War II.

Work Cited

Comic Alliance Staff “Comic Art Propaganda Explored: ‘Hansi The Girl Who Loved the Swastika’.” ComicsAlliance, 17 July 2010, comicsalliance.com/comic-art-propaganda-explored-hansi-the-girl-who-loved-the-swa/

Canada, Veterans Affairs. “Canadian Youth – Growing up in Wartime.” Veterans Affairs Canada, Government of Canada, 24 Mar. 2017, www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/historical-sheets/youth.

David Machin, Theo Van Leeuwen. “Toys as discourse: children’s war toys and the war on terror.” Toys as discourse: Children’s war toys and the war on terror | Critical Discourse Studies Vol. 6, No.1, February 2009, 51-63

Martin Armstrong. “Propaganda & Children – Always the First Target of Leaders.” Propaganda & Children – Always the First Target of Leaders | Armstrong Economics, www.armstrongeconomics.com/uncategorized/propaganda-children-always-the-first-target-of-leaders/.

Stacy Gillis, Emma Short. “Children’s experiences of World War One.” The British Library, The British Library, 20 Jan. 2014, www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/childrens-experiences-of-world-war-one.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

The Reality of Indigenous People

Copyright 2017 Sarah Patriarca, Ryerson University

Introduction

During World War II, the family dynamic in Canada changed as fathers and brothers went off to fight in the war while the women were left to not only tend to the children, but also take over occupations typically held by males. As children were more or less left in the dark, the rise of comics provided Canadian children with a new source of entertainment. The comics illustrated different super heroes and plots based around the war at the time. Most of these stories included crude stories or depictions of events that helped the children to better understand what was going on without revealing too much for them to worry. In retrospect, the comics are a very good distraction to these kids. However, looking at the comics now as young adults, we can clearly see the crude humor of racism, and the facts of the war are displayed throughout these comics. In my comic, Wow Comic Issue. 16, there was one comic in particular that illustrated crude humour towards Indigenous people specifically. The specific comic I will be looking at is the “Jeff Warring” comic that uses the character of an Indigenous man and native setting to represent the Indigenous people in a certain way.  The research question I will be analyzing will be: How are the Indigenous People displayed in the comics? I believe that this comic displays Indigenous people as inferior to European Canadians, which in turn makes the audience perceive them in a different way. By using the simplistic language and illustrations of the comic, I will be able to show the difference between both characters. This topic will not only shed some light on how First Nations were seen as, but also give some perspective against stereotypical beliefs. Over the years, the First Nations of Canada have been characterized in a certain way that depict stereotypes and representations that are false, usually made by European Canadians.

 

European Canadians vs. Indigenous Canadians

In addition, the relationship between Indigenous Canadians and European Canadians are both the same in reality and in the comic. This relationship can be seen throughout the comic with the use of its illustrations and the text from speech/thought bubbles to analyze it more closely. In examining this, the reader can see that the European Canadian seems to have a speech of a superior tone over the Indigenous Canadian. The speech shown in the comic can be seen as very simplistic once the First Nation talks compared to when the European Canadian talks. For example, in my comic Jeff Warring would be considered as the European Canadian whereas the Chief of the tribe would be considered to be the Indigenous person. Throughout the entire comic, Jeff Warring speaks down toward the Chief in a condescending manner. It is also good to notice that the speech bubbles when Jeff Warring is talking contains more words, whereas the Chief have very little to no words involved in the speech bubble. Another way of looking at the difference between both races would be through the illustrations provided in the comic. The illustrations and the speech bubbles help the audience to see the difference of both characters when analyzing it. These very small details that show the comparison between both races. The illustrations are built to tell the viewer the story, while also building up knowledge for the reader as well. However, there are other stories that involve Indigenous people that are not

Source: Native American Heroes in the Comics: An Overview (Part 1), Kevin Breen, Blue Corn Comics (2005). © Whitman Publishing Company; 1st Edition (1940)

as inferior to European Canadians. In some comics, the Indigenous people are seen as doctors, business people and other higher positions in occupations (Dither and Larsen, 2010). This shift of representations displays how Indigenous people helped out in the war, even though this is rarely shown in history. On the contrary, there is one example where the comic displays the Indigenous person in more of a popular demand than the European Canadian character. The comic examines a Native hero, Big Chief Woohoo. Originally, he first appeared alongside a European Canadian hero named Gusto, however soon after Big Chief Woohoo, got the lead role in his own comic. Although, in this perspective, the Indigenous character was seen as superior over the European Canadian characters, the reasoning why Big Chief Woohoo became so popular was because of pop culture’s stereotypical approach towards Indigenous people. It is noted that “He fit the role of the ignorant savage” (Breen 2005) and much of the reason he became so popular is because the author made him ignorant to technology. This is a great example of the use of using illustrations and simplistic language to help depict a character. The only reason his character became a favorite to the audience is because of the crude humor and illustrations that made him seem inferior to a white character like Gusto. “You couldn’t find a better example of the ignorant savage than Wahoo. Besides the language cited above, the way he wrote letters in pictures, and his attempts to ride a car like a horse.” (Breen, 2005).  Even though, Big Chief Woohoo, is seen as superior to Gusto, he only became popular because his character lacked knowledge that supposedly more European Canadian’s have. The illustrations in the Jeff Warring comic specifically, reflect this approach in the differentiation of both races.

 

Stereotypes in Appearance: What Do You Think?

Furthermore, the illustrations in the comic help to support the case of how Indigenous people are perceived to its wider audience. The illustrations aid the reader to look deeper into the meaning of the comic and pick out certain characteristics that stand out when looking at the relationship between European Canadians and Indigenous people. When looking at the comic character of Jeff Warring and the Chief, the audience can see that the relation between both characters are very different. The comic displays Jeff Warring has an average looking man, with appealing features that captures the eyes of the audience. While in comparison, the

Murray Karn. Panel from “Jeff Warring.” Wow Comics, No. 16, August 1943, Bell Features and Publishing Company: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166678.pdf

Chief is made to look non appealing, with features that get overlooked. When looking at the comic now, the reader can see that the illustrations tend to favour the appearance of a stereotypical Indigenous persona, and also display stereotypical movements in the illustrations of how they would have acted. This misinterpretation and inappropriate facts used against Native Americans shifts the audience’s perception on how they are viewed. Comic books, specifically a part of Pop Culture, details the prominence of anti-Indianism in comic books, particularly as means through which Euro-American authors and audiences have made claims on and through Indianness (King, 2008).  The audience when viewing the comic, takes the illustrations of the comic and reads in between the lines and perceives in a way that makes sense to them. For example, if the Chief is displayed with a racial appearance that goes with the stereotypes, as seen in the picture below, then the audience will see the Indigenous Chief in that manner because it was handed to them. These illustrations prove that our perceptions are made based on what the media shows us. In particular, the media and general sources, such as Encyclopedia’s and news documents, only display the negative aspects of the Indigenous people’s history and their war efforts as well.

 

Are the Media and the Government the Real Culprits?

Moreover, when researching this paper, I took note that most of the information about Indigenous people’s efforts in the war were erased from the mass media. This became very problematic when dealing with this topic because sources for this essay became scarce. In the perspective of the audience, this becomes an issue because lack of information means that many readers are not educated on actual facts. Instead, the media are sources that display these stereotypical approaches, which is the only thing the people know. We as millennials know in the 21st century, the mass media has become one that encompasses all knowledge and is used in everyday activities. As the people, we cannot deny that the media is a very powerful thing that can control how people perceive the world. In particular, history is effective and powerful, as we have come to realize with past historian rulers, whether they produced positive or negative impacts. However, in regards to Indigenous people in the media, it has been left out in majority of sources that Indigenous people did aid in wartimes. However, North American resources have wiped out majority of their efforts and in turn, shifting all the contributions on to the European Canadians, glorifying them in a sense. This is a problematic aspect because society forms a stigma and stereotypical approach to the Indigenous people rather than educating themselves. “The paper concludes that it is a responsibility of society to educate all students to understand that any portrayal of history comes from a particular vantage point and to understand that dominant society privileges some representations and disadvantages others” (Iseke-Barnes, 2005). People lose out on greater knowledge when the government decides to erase their efforts from the mass media. More so, the government is part of the blame for the stereotypical and prejudice the Indigenous people face in the comic, and in reality. In particular, what I have observed from my comic, is that women play a huge role in part of the prejudice that is associated with the Indigenous people. Looking at the comic from a child’s perspective, it can be

Murray Karn. Panel from “Jeff Warring.” Wow Comics, No. 16, August 1943, Bell Features and Publishing Company: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166678.pdf

seen that there could be a romantic association with Jeff Warring and the Chief daughter, Tana, who is the main female character apart of the comic. However, looking at the comic through the lens of a researcher, you can observe that the relationship between Jeff Warring and Tana is submissive and dominant. Tana’s character goes against her own father, to help Jeff Warring escape and fight against her own kind. This can be related to the events of a women named Dorothy Chartrand, who was a part of the Metis tribe and had to be a service woman because her husband joined the war. In this journal article, she recounts her experience and the reasons she joined, as well as how she was treated and discriminated for her race. Her “grandmother’s teachings about oppression and its operation in the lives of Métis” in which she described the role of government to take away “your pride, your dignity, [and] all the things that make you a living soul. When they are sure they have everything, they give you a blanket to cover your shame” (Iseke and Leisa, 2013). They explain how even though their efforts were purely voluntary and not paid, the government still discriminated against them. This point in time, really shaped the lives of these women and were a critical point for these Indigenous women. The character Tana was stripped of everything, and aided Jeff Warring. In relation to the mass media, pop culture makes it so that when we perceive it as an audience, we see it as two characters falling in love, when in actuality it has a deeper meaning that children reading these comics will not understand. Children at a young age reading these comics take that interpretation and bring the stereotypical information with them into their adolescent and adult years.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, there is a very big separation between European Canadians and Indigenous Canadians that an observer can see in the comic and in reality. In particular, to the Jeff Warring comic story in Wow Comics, we can see this relationship when looking at both illustrations and speech bubbles that are in the comic issue. The speech bubble’s that the Chief uses is more simplistic language, whereas the European Canadian, Jeff Warring uses more terminology that can make the audience see the superior and inferior complex between both characters. The illustrations are used to make Jeff Warring appealing to the eye, whereas the Chief is the latter, which creates an image in the audience’s head of what Indigenous people are supposed to look like. The audience can take note that the mass media and government play a huge role in how we interpret Indigenous people. Due to the fact that there are no records of Indigenous people which makes people have a lack of knowledge when it comes to the topic. As well, the observer can notice that the relationship between women and government, is related to Jeff Warring and Tana, which can seem to be romantic when in actuality it is something far greater. In result, with the use of illustrations and simplistic language in the comic, we can see the meaning behind the superior and inferior relationship between European and Indigenous Canadians. Indigenous people are seen to be inferior, that even with the efforts of being portrayed in a comic, popularity will always be predominant for the European Canadian.

 

Work Cited

Dither , Jason, and Soren Larsen. “Originality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004.” Originality and the Arctic North in Canadian Nationalist Superhero Comics, 1940-2004, 2010.

Judy, Iseke M., and Desmoulins A. Leisa. “Critical Events: Metis Servicewomen’s WWII Stories with Dorothy Chartrand .” The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, vol. 33, no. 2, 2013, pp. 29–54. Canadian Business & Current Affairs Database.

King, C. Richard. “Alter/Native Heroes: Native Americans, Comic Books, and the Struggle for Self-Definition.” Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, vol. 9, no. 2, 31 Dec. 2008, pp. 214–223., doi:10.1177/1532708608330259.

Iseke-Barnes, Judy. “Misrepresentations of Indigenous History and Science: Public Broadcasting, the Internet, and Education.” Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 26.2 (2005): 149-65. Web. 11 Nov. 2017

Breen, Kevin. “Native American Heroes in the Comics: An Overview (Part 1).” Blue Corn Comics — Native American Heroes in the Comics:  An Overview (Part 1), Blue Corn Comics, 28 Sept. 2005, www.bluecorncomics.com/kbreen.htm.

 

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

 

Who Are You? Where Are You From? What do you Stand For? Questions of National Identity in Dizzy Don Issue 14

© Copyright 2017 Sophia Vecchiarelli, Ryerson University

Introduction

At first glance, the issues of national identity in Dizzy Don Down South America Way Issue 14 may not jump out at readers. It may appear as just another comic released in 1944 by Bell Features: to a child who lived in 1944, it could be considered funny, with an adventurous plot, and awe-inducing heroes; to a 21st Century reader, it would come across as fairly stereotypical, poorly produced and horribly racist. Through a closer reading, one begins to notice the overarching concept of identity and the all-encompassing attitude nationality seems to inflict on that identity. This paper will be discussing the historical and contextual factors that affect the way readers approach Dizzy Don Down South America Way through the lens of national identity. It will provide a constructed definition of national identity using multiple scholarly articles that have been published in that field, which can then be applied to the characters in Dizzy Don Down South America Way. Moreover, this essay will discuss the shifting of nationality and the affect it has on the identities of the characters. Most importantly, this paper will be exploring the impact of characterizing identities through nationality and how that affects the young readers Dizzy Don Down South America Way is directed to.

Historical and Contextual Factors

To begin, the historical factors of World War 2 will have an important impact on the way nationalities are depicted in Dizzy Don Down South America Way Issue 14. World War 2 took place between 1939-1945 and pitted nation against nation (“World War II Fast Facts”). During this time, who one was and where they came from were considered the same identifier (Dauphinee). One’s country of origin was used to identify a person as quickly as their name would be used (Dauphinee). An article from The Globe and Mail in 1943, titled “No Japs left on Kiska as Canucks, Yanks Land” illustrate the way people categorized each other based on their home nation (Dauphinee). The names of individual soldiers are not used in this article, it is simply their country of origin that matters and that is all a reader needs to know in order to judge these men. This technique was used to classify people as being allies or enemies during war and this technique translates into Dizzy Don Issue 14.

Furthermore, one must understand the medium of the comic book and the importance of the time period in which Dizzy Don Issue 14 was created. Comic books in Canada were in their golden age during World War 2 because of the War Exchange Conservation Act, put in place to stop trade between Canada and other countries (Bell). This Act allowed Canadian comic book makers to thrive and publish stories that enhance Canadian national identity (Bell). It can be assumed, given the content, comic books were directed mainly at young boys. It can also be assumed that comics were used to make children laugh in a time when laughter didn’t always come so easily. However, not everything in Dizzy Don Issue 14 is

Fig. 1. Manny Eason. Pp 36, Dizzy Don Comic. No.14, Aug/Sept 1944, Bell Features. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166605.pdf

humorous as many stories are filled with propaganda and bias ideas against certain types of people (Easson 36-40). It is important to remember to step back and remind oneself of the time period in which these materials were released. Many aspects of Dizzy Don Issue 14 will not seem acceptable to the mind of a 21st Century thinker but for the sake of understanding this paper and comic better, historical perspective is helpful.

A Definition of National Identity—Somewhat

The Oxford English Dictionary defines national identity as “a sense of a nation as a cohesive whole, as represented by distinctive traditions, culture, and language” (Oxford English Dictionary). This definition allows for a starting point in thinking about national identity; it is a concept that people are connected through their nation, where they live, even if they are not connected in any other way. It is another technique that humans have come up with to divide people into categories of us and them (Thompson 251). It causes people to start thinking about their home country in a certain way, as being bonded through their “shared” traditions, and outsider countries of having “other” or “different” ways of living (Thompson 251). In powerful countries, such as the United States, it creates a “nationalistic impatience” with outsiders who cannot or don’t want to assimilate into the “right” national identity (Thompson 250).

During World War 2, dictator Adolf Hitler used nationalism as way of excluding anyone who wasn’t his ideal citizen, using this concept to make citizens have the mentality of being better than other countries (Thompson 250). One could argue that the need to be the strongest nationalistic country caused the death of millions. This concept of nationalism is able to be extracted from war and politics, presented to children in the comics of 1944, and in the present, still plagues citizens at every turn.

An argument that can be drawn from this definition is that where one comes from is a part of who they are as a human being and is displayed through the way one walks, talks and approaches situations. However, Dizzy Don Down South America Way takes this concept to a new level when representing characters from all around the world; their identity of “self” and their nationhood are so intertwined that changing their nationality changes the essence of a character.

Dizzy Don Down South America Way—Identity Displayed

The article, “The Many Lives of Captain Canucks” explains the connection between national identity and comic books as such “comic books, as a visual medium, engage this act of imagination, in turn facilitating the mental construction of the nation and national identity” (Edwardson 185). Given the excerpt from this article, it is not surprising that Dizzy Don Down South America Way creates an imagined environment where what characteristics one displays are directly correlated to where they are from.

The Americans in Dizzy Don Issue 14, Dizzy Don, Shirley Watson and Canary Byrd, are portrayed as cool, sly, funny radio hosts who are going on tour to meet their fans from South America (Easson 10). They are beautiful and smart, the heroes of the story who can defeat any problems they could possibly come across (Easson 30). They are untouchable and powerful, just as the United States would have been viewed, by allies, during World War 2.

The South Americans, represented by Senor Cabana Manyana, Senor El Ropo, Sugar Lips and the South American police officer, are represented as mysterious, sexy, a bit clueless, and very useless outside of the extravagant parties they throw for their “favourite Americanos”. In particular, the scene after Shirley has been kidnapped by unknown bandits, Dizzy Don and Canary Byrd go to the police but the police officer offers to find Shirley in a month or two, dead or alive and Canary Byrd tells him “Go back to sleep now chiefy” (Easson 19). Dizzy Don proceeds to say they will deal with this themselves, furthering the characteristic created in this imagined setting of South Americans being no help and the Americans saving the day.

The Canadian, by represented by Joe Flip, seen only in one series of frames in the comic as being polite and helping the Dizzy Don and Canary Byrd save Shirley (Easson 24). He introduces himself as Canadian and then simply offers his services as a polite; the audience learns nothing about Joe other than that he is Canadian, he has the ability to fly a plane, and is eager to help the Americans.

Who these characters are cannot be distinguished outside of their nation and they are confined to the imagined national identity of that nation; until, of course, their national identity changes.

Shifting National Identities

The plurality of national identities is based on the idea that national identities are not static, they change from context to context (Andreouli and Howarth 362)). The idea of plurality is one person can hold multiple nationalities or a nation can have an influx of multiple identities (Cantle 315). According to the article “National Identity, Plurality and Interculturalism”, this leads to a nation of multiculturalism where there is “no us versus them” concept in play but a place that embraces new thoughts and ideas that can only come from outside sources (Cantle 315).

However, despite the positive expectations Cantle has for plural national identities, he predicts that

“The postwar ideal of a more integrated international community, in which ideas and cultures may bridge national boundaries to create a world in which we are more at ease with each other, is seldom now advanced as a desirable political objective, despite the evident interdependency of economic and political decision-making” (Cantle 313-314).

People view minorities and “other” national identities as threats to their carefully crafted world (Cantle 313). The need to classify and create the “us versus them” ideology is too distinct in humans; it is how people are able to make sense of their worlds and disrupting that is too challenging, even if it could bring positive possibilities, like Cantle believes.

This ideology was alive back in 1944 as portrayed in the article “S. Africa Hospital in Italy Has 26 Canadian Nurses”, where the reporter questions if the nurses in Africa have become African or if they are still Canadian. There is no discussion about whether they could be both Canadian and African, choosing to adopt traditions from both cultures. The reporter goes on to mention some of the nurses married African men and hints that they have chosen Africa over their Canadian roots (“S. Africa Hospital…”). This is the concept present in Dizzy Don Down South American Way, that there is no in-between for national identity. One can only be this or that and whichever they choose becomes an irreversible part of who they are.

What Nationality Shifts Mean to Character Development

The shift from one nationality to another for Senor El Ropo and Sugar Lips completely
change who the audience thought the characters where up until this point. Senor El Ropo was the shifty, mysterious, odd South American who a reader could think was suspicious but not outright dangerous. Sugar Lips was the sexy, mysterious, South American songstress who could be considered eye candy and little else as she only appeared to speak Spanish. Both characters kept up their façade until their true identities (nationalities) were revealed.

Sugar Lips is no longer the sensual singer, as she is no longer South American, but a skilled kidnapper from Brooklyn that plans to auction Shirley off for ransom (Easson 18).

Fig. 2. Manny Eason. Pp 18, Dizzy Don Comic. No.14, Aug/Sept 1944, Bell Features. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166605.pdf

While she is still portrayed in her South American dress and heels, her facial expression and tone shift to a cold criminal with an attitude. She tells Shirley in one frame, “Listen babe! That Spanish was just an act I was brought up in Brooklyn. See,-your pals are gonna kick in a heavy ransom for you, and we need the dough, get the angle? Sweetheart” (Easson 18) She has acquired a whole new set of traits with her new nationality and has dropped the “performance” of a South American.

Senor El Ropo, similarly drops his performance as a South American cigar company owner when he is revealed to actually be a German spy working for Hitler and the Nazis. El Ropo becomes “Nutsi Agent Schwarīzmuller” and with his new name, he adopts new personality traits (Easson 27). All of a sudden, he is willing to kill Shirley and himself in the name of Hitler, when there has been no indication thus far that he is interested in killing anyone. When he acquired his German nationality, he also acquired “his true self” of being a murdering spy. There are no traces of El Ropo left in him, as though that was a different person altogether.

These two examples display the all-encompassing role nationality plays in this imagined comic world. A character cannot be both a mysterious South American and a murdering German as the two nationalities cannot be inhabited in the same person for the sake of the traditional solo national identity.

Why National Identity (Identities) in Comics Matter

One might be considering whether the comic itself amplifies the importance of nationality for the purposes of the tale or if it has sunken into the subconscious of the writer, publishers, and illustrators involved and unfolded unintentionally. Truthfully, it could be one or the other, or it could be a bit of both but the reason why it’s there doesn’t matter—what matters is the fact that this is the representation of national identity in comics at all.

In a child’s comic book, national identity is being used as a prop to further the divide between people who are the proposed “us” and who are the “them”. In this case, it’s the Germans who are the villains, the Americans who are the heroes, the Canadians as minor aids in getting the job done, and South Americans appear as useless, as it would be reflected to one perspective in the war. It displays the idea that people can perform identities of minorities to achieve a goal but outside of that, they will never be the heroes or the villains (Barbour 271).

However, this isn’t just a staple in the past that has changed as humans evolved and became more politically correct. It is not just a comic book that has no reflection on real life. These same issues are alive in the 21st century. The countries that one labels as hero or villain may have changed but the underlying issue is still there; people are too busy pointing fingers at each other to be conscious of what blossoms from segregation. It became Hitler in 1939, believing that Germany is the only country worthy of being powerful, it became millions of people dying, fighting each other simply because of where they come from and sadly, it became education for young kids who read comics like Dizzy Don Down South America Way and saw the world in terms of nationality.


Works Cited

Andreouli, Eleni, and Caroline Howarth. “National Identity, Citizenship and Immigration: Putting Identity in Context.” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 43, no. 3 (2013): 361–82. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5914.2012.00501.x.

Barbour, Chad. “When Captain America Was an Indian: Heroic Masculinity, National Identity, and Appropriation.” The Journal of Popular Culture 48, no. 2 (2015): 269–84. Scholar Portal Journals, https://doi.org/10.1111/jpcu.12256.

Bell, John. “Comic Books in English Canada – The Canadian Encyclopedia.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, July 8, 2015. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/comic-books-in-english-canada/

Cantle, Ted. “National Identity, Plurality and Interculturalism.” The Political Quarterly 85, no. 3 (2014): 312–19. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-923X.12101.

Dauphinee, John. “No Japs Left on Kiska As Canucks, Yanks Land.” Globe and Mail, August 23, 1943. http://collections.warmuseum.ca/warclip/pages/warclip/ResultsList.php

Edwardson, Ryan. “The Many Lives of Captain Canuck: Nationalism, Culture, and the Creation of a Canadian Comic Book Superhero.” Journal of Popular Culture 37, no. 2 (2003): 184–201. Scholar Portal Journals, https://doi.org/10.1111/1540-5931.00063.

Owens, Mickey, Manny Easson, and Bell Features, eds. The Funny Comics with Dizzy Don: No. 14. Toronto, Ontario: Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1944. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166605.pdf

Thompson, Ewa M. “Nationalism, Imperialism, Identity: Second Thoughts.” Modern Age; Wilmington 40, no. 3 (Summer 1998): 250–61. ProQuest, https://search.proquest.com/docview/196868484/abstract/8A2D52CC9A954AA7PQ/1

“S. Africa Hospital in Italy Has 26 Canadian Nurses.” Globe and Mail, December 19, 1944. http://collections.warmuseum.ca/warclip/pages/warclip/ResultsList.php

“World War II Fast Facts.” CNN, Cable News Network, 17, Aug. 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/09/world/world-war-ii-fast-facts/index.html

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

Cultural Anxiety, Women, and Triumph Comics no.21

© Lea Sansom 2017, Ryerson University

Introduction

The role of women was changing drastically during and after World War II. As with any major cultural shift, this change in role was met with varied reactions from society at the time. There was major cultural anxiety surrounding the role of women as they went from homemakers and mothers, to working in factories and more. This cultural anxiety is evident in texts from the time, including in Triumph Comics no. 21. In this comic, there is no unifying message around the role of women. The female characters present in the various stories are represented as strong and capable heroes, or as weak damsels in distress. This is evident in the way they are drawn, as well as their actual role and importance in the narrative of the various stories. Taking these examples and the historical context into account, it is possible to see how the cultural anxiety surrounding the role of women at the time was present within this comic. Looking at the comics individually, it might seem that certain ideals were being promoted. When they are all taken into account together, given that they were published in the same issue, it presents a fairly conflicted idea of women and their role. This is similar to the cultural conflict taking place at the time surrounding the need for capable women and the desire to maintain traditional roles.

The Changing Role of Women in WWII

It is possible to see the changing role of women through primary sources of the time. The film Women are Warriors from 1942 outlines the many different ways in which women were involved in the war effort. This film places considerable focus on the domestic tasks of women during this time, such as caring for children and sewing clothing (1:30-2:00). However, it also shows shots of women training and marching like soldiers, and discusses the manual labour such as farming and even manning anti-aircraft guns (3:25). An article by Elinore Herrick from The New Leader discusses a newly implemented program of women working in shipyards. The author praises the success of the program, and the women participating. Of particular note is that the women are not allowed to wear makeup or jewellery for safety reasons, and must also wear fairly masculine safety gear. However, the author emphasizes that the women are experimenting with creams to protect their skin, and that they have a comfortable restroom with nice furniture. This attempt to emphasize the remaining femininity in a typically masculine job contributes to the idea of anxiety surrounding women’s roles.

World War II afforded women a larger role outside of the typical household management expected of them at the time. However, the expectation was that after the war, women would return to the role of housekeeper and restore the status quo (Smith and Wakewich, 58-59). According to Smith and Wakewich, the necessity of drawing women into the workforce had to be balanced with “concerns about women’s capacity for industrial labour and the general public’s anxiety about women’s expanded public role both as breadwinners and consumers” (60). The reliance on women both as a practical source of labour, and also as symbols of social stability created cultural anxiety (Hegarty, 113) and further necessitated a drawing of cultural boundaries between the proper woman who did her duty, and the woman who overturned societal norms. This defining of roles often intertwined with control of sexuality and created a divide of patriotic women and promiscuous women. The difference between them being their apparent acceptance or rejection of cultural norms and thereby the risk they posed to traditional ideals after the war was over (Hegarty, 115). Control and use of women’s bodies and sexuality during the war is a common theme that Smith and Wakewich, and Hegarty touch on. There was increasing pressure on women to occupy a more traditionally masculine position in order to aid the war effort and be seen as patriotic, but only so long as they did not disrupt cultural norms more than was necessary. This balancing act was adopted by the government in order to get the labour that they needed while alleviating cultural anxiety around morality (Smith and Wakewich, 61). It also had to be adopted by women, who could suffer the personal repercussions of being deemed immoral, as “‘promiscuous’ female sexuality became a prime target during wartime” (Hegarty, 115).

Powerful Characters

There are two notably powerful female characters in Triumph Comics no. 21. These are Nelvana of the Northern Lights, the titular character of her comic, and Sally Dunlop who is the protagonist of “Air Woman”. Both characters are shown in their comics to be smart and physically capable, and they come to the rescue of the male characters in their respective comics.

Fig. 1 Adrian Dingle, panel from “Nelvana of the Northern Lights” Triumph Comics. no.21, Aug/Sept 1944, Bell Features, p.2

Nelvana is significant in that her comic is the first to appear in this issue, and she is featured on the cover. Her comic was serialized as well, indicating that she was perhaps a popular character used to draw readers to buy the comic. This issue contains Chapter Three “The Lair of the Devil Fish” of the larger story “Nelvana of the Northern Lights and the Ice Beam”. From the beginning of this chapter, Nelvana is placed as the hero, with the recap of the previous chapter stating that Nelvana has just rescued one of the male characters, Silas, from a monster (Dingle, 1). From that point, Nelvana leads the police sergeant and Silas in investigating. In the image above (fig. 1), Nelvana’s physical strength is highlighted. She is shown in a powerful pose, even breaking out of the panel frame. She has dynamic lines around her, and faces front while the male characters have far less focus on them. Nelvana’s quick thinking also allows them to track the monster to the villains lair (Dingle, 3). Nelvana does present as typically feminine, she has long hair and wears a skirt, however her body is never seen as weak, and her physical appearance is not mentioned except in relation to her super powers. Based on Nelvana’s importance within the issue, she was clearly a successful character. With that in mind, the assumption can be made that readers at the time were receptive to such a powerful female character.

Sally Dunlop, of “Air Woman” is presented similarly to Nelvana. One important difference is that while Nelvana is very obviously a fictional character, “Air Woman” begins by situating the comic in its WWII context “The first Canadian Women’s Service, formed on July 2, 1940 was organized to release manpower for aircrew duties” (Lazare, 38). This adds weight to what takes place in this comic, as Sally Dunlop and the events of the comic are positioned as a more real-world situation. She is clearly meant to present an inspiring figure through her actions. Sally Dunlop represents an example of Hegarty’s “patriotic woman”. Like Nelvana, Sally Dunlop presents as typically feminine. In fact, she and Nelvana look quite similar. Again, like Nelvana, her body is never objectified. She is shown in action, running to save soldiers from a crashed plane, and then physically moving rubble in order to lift the soldiers to safety (Lazare, 40-41). She is even presented with a medal of honour “Distinguished Service in the Face of Danger” (Lazare, 41). Given the real-world context of this comic, Sally Dunlop being shown as smart and capable in the face of danger is very impactful.

While it is impossible to say what the intentions of the authors of these comics were, it is safe to assume they wanted their comics to sell. Therefore, the representation of both Nelvana and Sally Dunlop certainly indicates that strong and capable female characters were at least somewhat accepted and encouraged. Both comics do however maintain the physical appearance of femininity for the characters, similarly to Herrick’s article on female shipyard workers emphasizing the use of creams and typically feminine comforts. This indicates that while these comics do not balk at representing powerful women, there were still certain cultural expectations in place that they had to conform to.

Damsels in Distress

There are multiple examples of the damsel in distress within this comic. Gloria Gates from “Captain Wonder” and an unnamed character from “Tang” who is referred to mostly as “the girl” are two examples of this type of character. These two characters are shown being rescued by men, and never take much action of their own within the narrative. They are also both often depicted being held or restrained in some way.

Fig. 2. Ross Saakel, panel from “Captain Wonder” Triumph Comics. no.21, Aug/Sept 1944, Bell Features, p.20

The image to the left (fig 2) depicts Gloria Gates being kidnapped in “Captain Wonder”. She is being physically held by the male villain, and she makes no attempt to fight back, only being able to call for help. Her body is objectified here, with her skirt being pulled up slightly to reveal the top of her stocking, and her body positioned in a way to display her curves, even though she is being violently kidnapped. The male villain is what the eye is first drawn to in this frame, making Gloria even less important. Later in the comic, Gloria is shown tied up and with her shirt pulled down to expose her shoulder and the top of her breast. She remains tied up until Captain Wonder saves her, and even then her shirt remains pulled down in the last frame she is present in (Saakel, 24). The main purpose she serves in the narrative is to give Captain Wonder a reason to go and fight the villains. She is never shown in action, except for fleeing from the villains after being rescued, and her body is objectified throughout.

The unnamed “girl” from “Tang” serves much the same purpose as Gloria Gates. She is first shown tied up and gagged by the villains which the main characters are investigating, and she provides justification for the protagonists to fight the villains. After being rescued, the girl is shown being carried on horseback by the protagonists and providing them with one clue to find the rest of the villains (Kalbach, 14-15). In fact, this clue is only one of two sentences the girl speaks. It is also not a complete sentence, only a fragment description of one of the villains. The other sentence is simply confirming that the protagonists had reason to fight the villains. Like Gloria Gates, the girl serves mainly as a justification for the violence that the male protagonists commit.

Narratively, neither of these female characters are unique or vital. They could both be swapped with any number of reasons for the protagonists to leap into action and the narrative could be essentially the same. These characters both represent women who are entirely reliant on men. In the context of the time, this could be a statement on the role of women. It certainly indicates that as a society this view of women was not entirely unacceptable.

Conclusion

This comic offers insight into the effect that the changing role of women had on culture at the time. There is no unified stance on the role of women within this comic, just as the role of women was a tension point within the culture at the time. The characters presented have very different roles within their respective narratives, with varying importance. Similar techniques are used to show power or weakness in the female characters. In comparing these characters, it is possible to see how the patriotic woman was represented, as well as how women were represented as weaker and needing the support of men. Neither type of woman is represented as inherently bad, and so it is safe to assume that both were culturally present at the time. Overall, the varied representation of female characters within this comic is an interesting view into cultural ideals of the time.


Works Cited

  • Dingle, Adrian. “Nelvana of the Northern Lights and the Ice Beam. Chapter Three: Lair of the Devil Fish.” Triumph Comics, no 21, Aug/Sept 1944, pp. 1-7. Bell Features, Library and Archives Canada, http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166652.pdf.
  • Hegarty, Marilyn E. “Patriot Or Prostitute?: Sexual Discourses, Print Media, and American Women during World War II.” Journal of Women’s History, vol. 10, no. 2, 1998, pp. 112-136
  • Herrick, Elinore M. The Myth of the American Glamour Girl: A Real Story of Women in War Industry: Millions in Factories Solving Manpower Crisis, Mrs. Herrick Says. vol. 26, New Leader Publishing Association, New York, N.Y, 1943.
  • Kelbach, René L. “Tang.” Triumph Comics, no 21, Aug/Sept 1944, pp. 10-16. Bell Features, Library and Archives Canada, http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166652.pdf.
  • Lazare, Jerry. “Air Woman.” Triumph Comics, no 21, Aug/Sept 1944, pp. 38-41. Bell Features, Library and Archives Canada, http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166652.pdf.
  • Saakel, Ross. “Captain Wonder.” Triumph Comics, no 21, Aug/Sept 1944, pp. 19-25. Bell Features, Library and Archives Canada, http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166652.pdf.
  • Smith, Helen E., and Pamela Wakewich. “Regulating Body Boundaries and Health during the Second World War: Nationalist Discourse, Media Representations and the Experiences of Canadian Women War Workers.” Gender & History, vol. 24, no. 1, 2012, pp. 56-73.
  • Women Are Warriors. Directed by Jane Marsh. National Film Board, 1942.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.

 

The Portrayal of Women in Active Comics no. 3

© Copyright 2017 Olivia D’Agostino, Ryerson University

Introduction

This exhibit identifies the ways in which Women are portrayed to younger audiences in Active Comics Issue #3, April 1942. The portrayal of women present in the comic book that display women as helpless and weak do not match how women acted during World War II. Women played a major role in World War II, helping in munitions factories as well as keeping everything together on the home front. In the comic book, there are advertisements that are aimed towards boys and girls, this created the research question, why do the comic books display women as helpless and clueless when it comes to efforts in the war? After doing some research, it was evident that there is not much information on why women were perceived and illustrated this way. However, through analysis of the comic and seeing how women were portrayed, the display of women may have been depicted this way to help encourage men to enlist in the war by making it look glamorous.

Women in WWII

World War II caused political, ethnic, language, gender and class lines that changed the roles each person played during the war and these changes included women becoming a key role in war efforts (Morton, 989). As expressed in the article, Women and War, women have been involved in war efforts since the beginning of war time (Chenier, 1). They’ve been assets to the war in different fields including nursing, munitions factories, and by providing efforts at home that boosted war efforts (Chenier, 1). Women even took over male jobs during wartime which helped Canada during the war and helped advance women’s rights (Chenier, 1). Women even took on the role of training for the home defense which included outfitting themselves in uniforms and training themselves in riffle shooting and military drill (Chenier, 1). Eventually women also enlisted to help in the war which included the air force, army and navy (Chenier, 1). At first the women were only trained for clerical, administrative and support roles but eventually were trained as parachute riggers, laboratory assistants, and trained in electrical and mechanical trades (Chenier, 1). Eventually the Canadians Women’s Army Corps trained their women in the same way, starting them off as cooks, nurses and seamstresses but later began training them as drivers and mechanics (Chenier, 1). On the home front women also helped with code breaking and espionage (Chenier, 1). Women on the home front also ensured the economy did well by producing and conserving food, raising funds to finance hospitals, ambulances, hostels and aircraft, and even volunteered their services inside and outside the country (Chenier, 1).

In the article, The Nursing Sisters of Canada, they discuss how the Nursing Sisters became a major role in the second world war. The work the Nursing Sisters conducted is important to note because it shows how important women were and how they could be perceived as heroes as well. The Nursing Sisters were even sent into action performing first aid to wounded soldier wearing battle dress, steel helmets and backpacks (1). They worked under pressure, they were brave, intelligent and resourceful which are traits that all the male superheroes possess.

Ephemera

Canada Wartime Information Board. Women of Canada! Save and Serve. Broadside. Toronto Reference Library Baldwin Collection. Public Domain

 

There are even some war posters that are present in the Toronto Public Library that depicted the importance of women’s help in the war. One of the posters titled “Housewives! Wage war on Hitler” displays what the women did on the home front to support the war. Their job was to save and re-use items such as rubber, metal, paper, fats, bones, rags and glass to help salvage resources. Another poster with the title “We’re in the army now” was used for the same effect. To help support the idea of re-using items to save on resources.
One poster found in the Toronto Public Library states, “They (women) have done a great work for the Empire in encouraging the men to enlist.” This information proves that the government used women to encourage men to enlist in the war. Women being used as propaganda by the government proves it can also be true that women could have been used as propaganda in comic books to promote men into believing that enlisting in the war could make them more desirable. The stories that follow in the issues of Active Comics number three demonstrate how women were depicted as clueless and helpless in every story in the Canadian comic.

Active Comics Representation of Women

Leo Bachle. Panel from “The Brain and the Mummy Man.” Active Comics, No. 3, April 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada, p. 11. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada

Inside the issue of Active Comics number three, the first story is called The Brain and the Mummy Man (1). In this story, the authors make being the heroine look desirable to the young male audience. This story starts off with the Mummy Man asking his henchman to find a pretty girl to capture so that the heroine of the story, The Brain, must come to her rescue. “master say…catch purty girl…use as bait to trap brain!” (3). The illustration also displays the nameless women as helpless by showing her tied up to a chair. She is also displayed with a perfect figure and ripped clothing to make her look desirable and in need of rescuing (3). When The Brain rescues the woman, she stands helplessly at the back waiting for The Brain to do all the work, deliver justice to the villain, and then get her to safety (8-9). With the woman just standing in the background doing nothing, this makes her look weak, and at the mercy of all the men around her. Then to make being the heroine look even more desirable, at the end of the story, the pretty woman rewards The Brain for saving her with a kiss, meanwhile The Brain acts modest (11). Therefore, this teaches young male audience that, if they join the army they can become a hero just like The Brain, save the day by defeating villains as well as win over the pretty girl. However, this also leaves an impression on young female readers that they are not heroic and resourceful but should only be pretty and defenseless to attain the attention of a superhero.

Panel from "Active Jim". Active Comics, No. 3, April 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada, p. 14. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Panel from “Active Jim”. Active Comics, No. 3, April 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada, p. 14. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

In the short excerpt that introduces Active Jim, they do introduce a woman, Joan Brian, as a working woman. However, she only assists Active Jim in sorting his mail and picking him up from the airport (12-14). Joan does not assist in any crime fighting, or even gathering information on villains, but is instead just an errand girl. This subconsciously sends the message to young female readers that they can not be superheroes who save the day, but only assistants who help the male hero. In the first frame, Joan is seen checking herself out in a compact mirror making sure her hair is perfect (12). Joan is also depicted as a beautiful woman with a perfect figure. This proves that all women associated with superheroes in comic books must be perfect looking. This also send the message to young female readers that they must be beautiful and helpless to keep male attention.

Al Cooper, Panel from "Capt. Red Thortan." <em>Active Comics,</em> No. 3, April 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada, p. 21. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Al Cooper, Panel from “Capt. Red Thortan.” Active Comics, No. 3, April 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada, p. 21. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

The second story of the issue Active Comics number three, introduces the character Carole Powell who needs rescuing by Capt. Red Thortan. In the first image, Carole is seen on her knees, with the Capt. holding her head down and asking her to stay back (18). This depiction displays that Capt. is the dominant person in this situation. He is in charge and in control which shows us that he will do everything to save the day and all she must do is sit back. Later in the story Carole feints after watching Capt. wrestling the tiger. This shows the reader that Carole is weak and delicate. Carole can not handle the situation and can not handle the thought of the Capt. getting hurt (29-31). Once again, Joan is depicted as having a perfect body with a beautiful face (18). After being saved from the tiger, Carole rewards the Capt. with a kiss. Again, the superhero acts noble and suitable while acting coy (31). While Capt. is off fighting the Japanese, Carole gets lost from him again which proves that she is clueless and in need of constant guidance and assistance. This story proves that the males have the dominant helpful stereotypes while the females have the submissive defenseless stereotypes.

Theodore Steele. Panel from "Dixon of the Mounted." Active Comics, No. 3, April 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada, p. 46. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
Theodore Steele. Panel from “Dixon of the Mounted.” Active Comics, No. 3, April 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada, p. 46. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

The third story of the issue Action Comics number three is about Dixon of the Mounted. The synopsis of the story immediately reads that he must go find Ruth Barton, another female who has been captured by a villain in the Northern Yukon. Ruth, like the rest of the women, has the perfect body that is paired with a beautiful face. She is also wearing revealing clothing displayed by a dress that is ripped (42). Her disheveled appearance reinforces the idea that she needs to be saved. Throughout the story Ruth gets tied up to a post and is rendered useless (42). The helpful character stereotype even goes towards the dog in this story, who can untie Dixon who can then free Ruth (45). This story demonstrates to the reader that Ruth is clueless, non resourceful and helpless to the point where a dog does more to get them free.

 

M. Karn. Panel from "Thunderfist." Active Comics, No. 3, April 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada, p. 64. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.
M. Karn. Panel from “Thunderfist.” Active Comics, No. 3, April 1942, Commercial Signs of Canada, p. 64. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

In the fourth and final story of the issue Action Comic number three, the woman they introduce is a reporter named Beverly. She is displayed as clueless because she cannot figure out that Randolph Steele is also Thunderfist. Thunderfist arrives at the location where the report is occurring, while talking to Beverly he realizes that he needs to help so he disappears to save the day. Once the situation is resolved he returns to Beverly who is worried and searching for him. Beverly never once puts the two facts together that Randolph could be Thunderfist. A woman who is supposed to report on odd things and come to realizations for the public could not put two simple facts together. This makes Beverly look unintelligent, while making Thunderfist look mysterious, intelligent and brave.

Conclusion

The Canadian White comic books were created with multiple genres as the focus, with war being one of them and which also ended up being the most prominent (Bell, 1). The Golden Age of comic books arose because of the ban on American Comic books during the war (Bell, 1). The production of Canadian comics started at first as a business opportunity to make a lot of money on a product that was desperately sought out by children of the time (Bell, 1). Using women as propaganda as a sort of prize to be won was not the focus for producing comic books. However, based on the depictions of these women and the number of times these stereotypes are depicted throughout the comic, it is evident that men would be more likely to join the war after seeing how the heroes fair with women. Women of this period participated and helped in the war in numerous ways that were beneficial to war efforts, therefore there is no logical reason, other than propaganda, as to why women would be depicted as clueless, unintelligent and useless. After analyzing all the information, it seems apparent that at the time of World War II, using women to get men to enlist in the war was more important than creating positive female ideals towards the younger female audience.

Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.


Bibiliography

Bachle, Leo. (w, a). “The Brain and the Mummy Man.” Active Comics, no. 3, April, 1942, pp. 1- 11. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166504.pdf

Bell, John. “Comic Books in English Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/comic-books-in-english-canada/. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.
Canada, Veterans Affairs. “The Nursing Sisters of Canada.” Veterans Affairs Canada, 18 Nov. 2016, www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/those-who-served/women-and-war/nursing-sisters. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.

Chenier, Nancy Miller. “Women and War.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/women-and-war/. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.
Cooper, Al. (w, a). “Capt. Red Thortan” Active Comics, no. 3, April, 1942, pp. 17-30. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166504.pdf

Legault, E.T, (w.) and M. Karn (a). “Thunderfist.” Active Comics, no. 3, April, 1942, pp. 51-64. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166504.pdf

Morton, D., Granatstein, J. L., & Cafferky, S. (2004). Canada and the two world wars. International Journal, 59(4), 988-991. http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/220852809?accountid=13631

Steele, Theodore. (w, a). “Dixon of the Mounted.” Active Comics, no. 3, April, 1942, pp. 35-48. Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada. http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166504.pdf

What It Means To Be A Canadian Hero in Active Comics no.10

© Copyright 2017 Brittany Fontes, Ryerson University

History of the Canadian Whites

The Canadian Whites were World War II-era comic books published and written in Canada that featured coloured front and back covers and a black and white interior. These comics came to be due to the War Exchange Conservation Act which restricted the importation of non-essential goods from the United States into Canada and this included comic books. There were four companies that came to be during this time period and took advantage of the demand for an emergence of Canadian heroes that would offer civilians comfort and hope. One of the most popular companies being Bell Features, the Canadian comic book scene grew and prospered during this time period giving Canadians a real image of what their heroes overseas looked and acted like. This industry was created as “…an entrepreneurial venture built from Canada’s war time economic situation and its political response to that situation…” (Kocmarek). This was the one chance for Canada’s comic book scene to be built and thrive.

In Active Comics no. 10 there are heroes of all kinds depicted in the 68 page, 10 cent comic including “Dixon of the Mounted”, “The Brain”, “Captain Red Thorton”, “Active Jim”, and “The Noodle”. These heroes are all diverse individuals in their own right but seem to have significant overlaps in terms of what makes them heroes in Canada.

“For a brief six-year window, and for the first time, we had comics that we could call our own. These Bell Features books, along with the other WECA books (from Anglo-American Publications, Maple Leaf Publishers, and Educational Projects) were as Canadian as comic books ever get, and they laid the foundation for any future comic book that wanted to earn the designation ‘Canadian'” (Kocmarek).

 Masculinity for a Canadian World War II Soldier

For young Canadian soldiers during World War II, masculinity was something that was both learned from their elders but also ever-changing in definition based on what the civilians of Canada needed them to be. Soldiers were often depicted in posters and wartime advertisements as well put together, tall and slim men with shiny boots and a stern face often with some sort of facial hair. The following photo suggests “…how war would reassert an officers masculine image and bearing” (Goodlet and Hayes).

An ideal officer, November 1939.
Figure 1, Geoffrey Hayes and Kirk Goodlet, Journal Of Canadian Studies, Project Muse

Young soldiers not only had to look the part to be considered masculine but they also had to act in an obedient, disciplined manner which was taught to them by their superiors. These men were taught to lead very simple lives with little to no entertainment and “Officers were permitted to have fun, but within bounds” (Goodlet and Hayes). Overall, the image of a masculine soldier who could be looked up to as a Canadian hero was stern, serious, well put together and well disciplined.

Canadian Superheroes

During World War II, Canadian solders were seen as “man-gods” (Beaty) which is how the idea of a Canadian Superhero came to be. All these heroes have one interesting thing in common: they have no superhuman power. Their job was to be “…exciting, but not overly exciting; active in the war, but not so active as to accomplish much of significance” (Beaty). All in all, the main goal was to give Canadians heroes that they felt they could connect to as people which is why they didn’t seem unreal and the ideas in each comic were not unimaginable in real life context. “Dixon of The Mounted” could be your neighbourhood police officer, while the brain could be the businessman who lives in your apartment building. Being a Canadian hero meant to be distinctly un-American while also being humble and able to fit into typical Canadian society.

In the first section “The Dynamic Adventures of Dixon of The Mounted” (Figure 2) (pp 1-9) we are shown a hero who is known for his patriotism and manly pride. Dixon’s super power is simple and functions perfectly with this story line: he is a Canadian Mounted Police trying to find out who is selling marijuana to “Indians and half breeds” (p1). He is pictured in typical mounted police uniform with a stern look on his face.

In the next comic titled “The Brain” (pp 10-18) our superhero is younger than the previously pictured Dixon and he is shown wearing “typical” superhero garments: a mask, tights, a cape and boots. The Brain is what one may picture when thinking of the word “superhero” and his purpose is completely different from that of Dixon. He is saving a “damsel in distress” from what looks like alien captors. Similar to Dixon, The Brain does not have any super-human powers. The Brain is simply strong, fast and masculine. He is an example of a stereotypical “macho-man”.

Next, we have the story of “Captain Red Thorton” (pp 26-34) whose superpower is once again being manly, patriotic and defeating a Canadian enemy of this time: the Japanese people. He is pictured with a muscular build, slicked back hair and nothing but a gun strapped to his hips as protection.

We then have “Active Jim” (pp 36-38) who is shown saving a young woman from another Canadian enemy: the Nazis. This story serves as encouragement for young men and woman to serve their army as it says “Like all you Canadian boys and girls, Jim has solemnly pledged his services to eventual allied victory…” (p26).

Lastly, we have “The Noodle” (pp 39-42) who is animated completely differently from the rest of our heroes as he resembles a baby. His mission is to save the world from “the jeeter-bug” and similar to our other heroes, he is saving a woman.

All these comics have a common enemy as to ensure that the Canadians enjoying the comics make an enemy of the Japanese people, Nazis, drug dealers and anyone who is not of “good moral standing”.

Figure 2, Rene Kulbach, Front Cover Active Comics no. 10, November 1943, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

Establishing Canadian Indentity

Canadian Comics during World War II were so much more than a medium for entertainment. They were a connection to the outside world that Canadian people, children especially, had never had the chance to experience and “…a didactic vehicle, a means to popularize certain philosophical and religious ideals” (Bell).  During World War II, Canadian comics were the only option for comic book readers. “These comics were different from their American counterparts in their scope as well as their levels of violence and patriotism” (Reyns-Chikuma and de Vos).  Though Canadian heroes did not have superhuman powers per say, their powers were an uncanny sense of masculinity, patriotism, and religious morals. These comics were a mirror of everything a good Canadian citizen would be during the war and that one could be just as helpful and important on the Homefront as on the battlefield. Some ways Canadians on the Homefront helped out were victory gardens, or children collecting war stamps; young or old everyone did their part. “These comics solicited readers’ opinions about what was and should be inside them and offered up contests for those same readers to participate in with almost every issue” (Kocmarek).

The purpose of these comics were “…to produce exciting adventures designed to intstill patriotism in Canadian kids” and also to “…explore complex mystical beliefs and the nature of good and evil” (Bell).

These qualities are what separated Canadian Comics from the rest of the world and what made them so special. They were unapologetically Canadian and distinctly un-American.

The End of An Era

The Canadian Golden age of comics ended in 1945 and the superheroes that were so revered and popular became obsolete. These comics were the first to explore “the utilization of comics as a lens for reading history as well as contemplating the future of

Figure 3, Rene Kulbach, Back Cover Active Comics no. 10, November 1943, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada.

artistic interpretations of Canadian identity” (Reyns-Chikuma and de Vos). Unfortunately, “…the next generation of Canadian kids thrilled to the adventures of foreign heroes” (Bell). Thus, Superman, Spiderman and all the popular American comics reemerged.

Though many Canadian artists have been persistent in the Canadian Comic book scene in trying to ensure its success, other Canadian artists view superheroes in comics “…represent cultural immaturity” (Bell) and “…an artistic deadend” (Bell). It is possible that superheroes simply do not represent Canadian history and culture and that we need a comic medium that includes “…literature, autobiography, history, and other sources” (Bell). because “…Canadians are probably way too wary of the uncritical portrayal of unrestrained heroism and power for the superhero genre to ever become a mainstay of the country’s indigenous comic art” (Bell).

Though the intense popularity that Canadian Comics experienced  has ended, “…the dream of a national superhero is likely to persist as long as Canadians produce comic art” (Bell).

___________________________________________________________________________

Works Cited

Beaty, Bart. “The Fighting Civil Servant: Making Sense of the Canadian Superhero.” American Review of Canadian Studies, vol 36, no. 3, October 2005, pp 427-439.Canadian Business & Current Affairs Database, 10.1080/02722010609481401

Bell, John. Invaders from the North. Dundurn, 2011.

Grace, John. “The Canadian Soldier and the Study of Current Affairs.” International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), vol. 20, no. 3, 1944, pp. 341–46.www.jstor.org/stable/3018560

Kocmarek, Ivan. “Truth, Justice, and The Canadian Way: The War-Time Comics of Bell

Features Publications.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature / Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée, vol. 43, no. 1, March 2016, pp. 145-65. Project Muse, https://doi.org/10.1353/crc.2016.0008

Kulbach, Rene, “Dixon of the Mounted.” Active Comics, no.10, Bell Features and Publishing Company Limited, 1945, pp. 1-8, Bell Features Collection, Library and Archives Canada,  http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/e/e447/e011166511.pdf

Reyns-Chikuma, Chris and Gail de Vos. “Exploring Canadian Identities in Canadian Comics.” Canadian Review of Compartive Literature / Revue Candadienne de Littérature Comparée, vol. 43, no.1, March 2016, pp 5-22. Project Muse, https://doi.org/10.1353/crc.2016.0003